This Neuroscientist Says Deadlines Crush Your Creativity

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Man looking at clock
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Without deadlines, it’s likely many of us would never bother to actually finish the projects we start. But in a lengthy Q&A over at the Washington Post, neuroscientist John Kounious argues that although deadlines do likely encourage your productivity, they can simultaneously torpedo your creativity. 

That’s because, as his research suggests, creativity flourishes when people are feeling happy and calm. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more sensitive to picking up these weakly activated, unconscious ideas and, when it’s detected, your attention can switch to it, and it can pop into the head as an insight,” Kounios told Post writer Brigid Schulte. “If you’re in a bad mood … it just goes with what’s strongest, which is usually the most straightforward.”

Deadlines, not to mention the fear of what will happen if you miss them, “can create anxiety and shift your cognitive strategy into a more analytical mode of thought,” Kounios added. He went on to suggest that managers who are seeking innovative ideas from their minions should assign a “soft target date” instead of a deadline, which is a nice thought. For anyone who is in the position of pumping out creative stuff on a deadline, it’s one more reason to knock off the procrastination and give yourself plenty of time before your deadline.

Deadlines Crush Your Creativity